Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Destruction of the Lover

'The Destruction of the Lover' was my piece for our end of year exhibition. It consisted of  6mm steel members welded together to form a gralloch table. A gralloch table is usually a stainless steel table for holding the deer while preparing it for the larder.  On it were some bones from the ribcage of a roe deer.

Originally I was looking at a bread response to the gralloch table and worked on this for about 3 weeks. No matter what I tried, it didn't look right but I did do some interesting experimentation with dough, leaving it for a day or two, stretching it and opening it up.  Below are some of the structures  I found:

In the end my tutor said "ditch the dough' and that led the way for me to find another solution for the piece.  I like the contrast between the two materials. Metal - black, hard, cold, rigid, man-made.   Bones - white, fragile, raw, natural.   One of my peers said she thought it was a very masculine piece of work which was interesting.  The title is a play on Louise Bourgeois's piece 'The Destruction of the Father'.

The Feelie Pudding

How are you feeling today?
If you are feeling rough , you can punch me.
If you are feeling gentle, you can cuddle me.
If you are feeling erotic, you can squeeze me. 

The Feelie Pudding was made in response to a brief for an exhibition  called 'Sensation' at The Old Ambulance Depot.   I wanted to make work that could respond to the viewers senses and be interactive as well.  Dough was an obvious answer for me. It is nice to the touch,  squeezable,  squidgy, palpable, can even be quite sensual.   Wrapping it in gingham material was in keeping with a homely, domestic situation and it was exhibited at the end of and on a piece of washing line.  I had to make it as near as possible to the exhibition because after a few days, it starts to go off, ferments and explodes out the bag!

Watching viewers at the exhibition interact with it was fascinating and quite amusing. Most people just hit it and let it swing around, others felt it and squeezed it, sometimes almost unconsciously while chatting.  The funniest thing, which several people did, was to balance it on their heads!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Deer, the Bread and the Teeth

This year I have taken up stalking deer and have used my response to this in my art. Instead of sticking the antlers on the wall, I did the usual thing(!) and put them in bread. There is not much rationale for this, its just I like working in bread. It is useful for me to use the various bones, antlers and teeth from deer and play with them as, at the moment, I don't really understand my fascination for stalking.  Is there something instinctual, maybe, about me connecting with the hunter/gatherer inside me?
The first two pieces of work below are roe buck antlers. After cooking, the antlers became brittle and cracked on cooling which is why they look shorter, blunt and broken.

The next two photos are some red deer teeth I found in the woods. They look a bit comical but also rather sinister.

This is the lower jaw of a roe deer. It has 32 teeth, including 8 at the front  which look rather like feet!

From these works so far, what I have learned is to just be quite fluid and spontaneous while working with the materials and not think too hard or plan what I am going to do. The response to the lower jawbone took only 5 mins to conceive and 15 mins to cook and it is an interesting and intriguing little object.   I compare this with very lengthy planning and baking of my bread bodies over the last few years! 


This term I decided I would somehow like to embrace my 30 years as a pharmacist by getting drugs into my artwork. I felt that, after all this time, drugs are my language and that surely they would be able to influence my artwork?  But after playing around, it doesn't seem to be cutting it.  Not for the moment anyway.  It seems forced and too pre-meditated. Maybe having a certain material  to work with is not as important as having a process? And possibly because I have been working with drugs for such a long time, they have a certain place in my psyche? Not fluid enough.

                                           Sponge cake with ibuprofen tablets and capsules

                                           Various drugs in sponge cake mixture

                                           Beeswax 'scone' with various drugs

For the eca open day in October, I made a pretend drug cake, using paracetamol capsules in the traditional pharmacy logo. The title, Sig: 2 QDS,  is the way prescriptions are written, it means 'take 2 capsules four times daily'.

                                                     Sig: 2 QDS
                                                     Clay, icing sugar, paracetamol caps, ribbon


Over the summer, 2011, Roberta Buchan and I decided to collaborate on a piece of work for the 'Fabric of the Land' exhibition in Aberdeen.  Roberta is a printmaking student and was happy to respond to some latex pieces which I had been using to record the moulding and general decomposition of my bread body. Her response was a collograph. We called  them the 'dancing collographs' as she made the latex look quite dynamic.

                                           Latex piece showing bread mould and  zip imprint.

                                              Final piece 'Coming together, falling apart'

 I also made some other little latex remnants from the bread surface which made an interesting mobile.

                                                    Latex remnants from the bread body

We both felt there was a lot of learning to be taken from collaborating on a piece of work. I feel it is important to listen to each other, be flexible and not too precious about your own work. Its exciting too, when you spark ideas off each other and end up somewhere completely different to where you thought you were heading!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Pelvic Obsession

Last summer, I saw a painting Pelvis with Moon,  by Georgia O'Keefe and became fascinated with the shapes of the pelvic bones, the curves and the holes.  When I thought about the pelvis, I liked its functions of protection and support.

                                                    Pelvis with Moon  1943 Georgia O'Keefe
                                                    Oil on canvas

For a few weeks, I became pre-occupied with drawing the pelvic bones and I bought a plastic pelvis off e-bay.  Below is a 'blind drawing' of a pelvis.  (my drawing is so bad, I may as well draw blind!!)

I made some out of salt dough and then made one out of steel. This was  really challenging. I used cardboard and a glue gun to make cardboard models to try and get the shape right but it ended up looking nothing like a pelvis!  My tutor said it looked like a ram's head. Hmmm......back to the drawing board.

After this, the pelvis left me for a few months, only to return at the end of my course.   It feels like I have turned full circle, after working with beeswax for my beehive sculpture,  I have just completed making a silicone rubber mould of the plastic pelvis and made one out of beeswax.  So finally, I got there.

During the summer, I managed to drop the pelvis and it broke into several pieces.  In the second photo, I melted some of the parts together onto a plinth.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Bees, bees, bees........

I have been interested in bees for quite a few years.  I love honey and honeycombs and when I was living in Somerset, I used to buy my honey from a local beekeeper... that was until a few years ago when the supply of local honey dried up.   Varroa mite, colony collapse disorder - it was all starting to look grim for the future of the bees.
The culture and history of bees is fascinating.  Beekeeping goes back to prehistoric times, the first organised beekeeping was in ancient Egypt.  Below is a representation of a Mayan honeybee from 1800 years ago.

(Image: Collins Beekeepers Bible)
In mythology, the bee was considered sacred and was thought to act as a bridge between the  natural world and the underworld.  Bees were identified with Demeter, the  Greek goddess of earth and crops.  Over the years, the queen and the hive have been used as analogies for political and economic models of society.

So, in my retirement, I am going to keep bees, and what better time to build a beehive than in my woodwork project at eca. I bought a beehive flatpack, a WBC hive (named after William Broughton Carr, 1890).  It is made from red cedar wood and smells gorgeous.  In fact this whole project has been about smells, the honey, the hive, the honeycomb and the beeswax.  Here it is made up before I started making it into an artwork.

For my installation, I used only two lifts and put the beehive on legs to raise it up off the ground.  I  made a beeswax 'nest structure' for the underneath and showed it in a dark room with only a small lamp in the beehive.  This produced and interesting grid pattern on the  wall as well as highlighting the structure.  I dripped honey and honeycomb down the beeswax onto the floor and onto the inside of the lifts so that when you looked through the little hole in the roof, you could see it dripping down. The smell in the room was the first experience people got when visiting my beehive!  My tutor said it was 'a sensorial feast'.

I furthered the project for my end of year show by buying some red cedar batons to make new legs and by making a different shape 'nest' underneath. This is my final piece. Its called Melissae which is Greek for honey bees.